Okay, I’m guessing Coulson isn’t a robot. Interesting.
This week’s episode of SHIELD featured all sorts of twists and turns, but the show itself seems to have finally evened out. It’s still playing the “this episode was much better than the last” game that you see a lot with first seasons. But overall, the characters from these last two episodes seemed much more relaxed and connected with each other and their mission. At this point, I think we’re all pretty happy with what the show has done, and my only major concern remains the fact that we need a few side episodes focused on Fitz, Simmons, and May. But since we’re only four episodes in, I’m worried yet.
Eye Spy started lobbing its twists at us right from the start. But of course the large group of identical men in creepy red masks weren’t really the bad guys. I began to realize more had to be happening when I noticed the briefcases handcuffed to their wrist. At first, the woman clearly following them seemed like she was probably a SHIELD agents monitoring a potential situation. Even after she knocked out the lights in the train, I thought it safe to assume she was with the good guys. Once the lights came up though…the severed hand and missing briefcase radically changed the tone. Watching her open the case and pocket the huge stash of raw diamonds inside only confirmed that we’d been being played.
Cut to the bus soaring out of a cloud bank. Coulson is in the cockpit trying to make small talk with Agent May who’s having none of it. So he heads back to where Fitz and Simmons just finished showing Ward a new weapon prototype. Basically, they’re trying to create a handgun version of the “Night Night Gun.” Coulson inquires about Skye’s training, and a somewhat exasperated sounded Ward updates him on his way upstairs. Once Ward’s disappeared, Coulson knocks on the window of the SUV, and it scrolls down to reveal Skye herself, taking some personal time in her new hidey hole. After a beautiful bit of banter about whether Skye’s every broken into a bank, an armored car, or a casino, Coulson cuts to the chase and declares that they’re on the case of the jewel theft.
Because it isn’t an isolated incident. The entire reason behind the masked men was an attempt to throw the thief off. As Coulson, May, and Skye brainstorm how the thief managed to pick out the one case with jewels in it, Skye offers up the theory of ESP, only to be shot down by May, and, more gently, even Coulson. Which quite frankly seems odd. This is a show with Norse gods and Hulks in the background. After Skye’s suggestion, they pull up Instagram photos from the event back at the bus. It’s a clever call, and Coulson pegs the thief straightaway as one Akela Amador, his former protege.
Coulson and May have the first of several tense conversations that involve not bringing HQ up to speed, and the team sets out to try and locate Amador themselves. In one of my favorite scenes of the episode, Fitz and Simmons sit in the backseat of the van and chatter about their different reactions to once again being drug out into the field. Simmons is clearly giddy as she shares about how she’s always wanted to visit the place since it’s the birthplace of a famous scientist. Fitz just as clearly wishes he were back on the bus as he clutches his briefcase like a shield and reminds Simmons of how their last away mission went. Ward and Coulson stress that all three techies are to remain in the van while they do the field work, earning a fist pump from Fitz and a sad puppy look from Simmons. Don’t worry, kids. Staying in the van is all kinds of exciting.
At this point, it’s hard to summarize the action without giving away all the beautiful plot twists, so I’m going to generally commit on a few more things that are slightly spoilery. Depending on your tolerance for these things, you might want to bail now if you haven’t watched the episode yet.
First, the one thing I love most about the episode is the same thing I’ve liked least in the other three: Skye. I think it’s because she spent most of the hour paired with Coulson instead of Ward. I’m really not too fond of the two young people together. I think I could come to like them once their relationship settles, but we’ve gone from antagonist, to comrade, to friend, to training officer, to potential romantic interest way to fast, and frequently each of their scenes focuses on one of these aspects instead of trying to incorporate several of them.
Versus her scenes with Coulson. These were some truly lovely performances from both actors. This is a relationship that defies a single term, but is consistent and is equally returned. There’s a lot of respect, trust, honesty, and even affection. While it’s clear Coulson’s the boss and the superior, there’s still a touch of father/daughter. Honestly, if Skye really is a mole, the affect it’s going to have on Coulson is going to heartbreaking. Anyway, all their scenes elevated the show into familiar Whedon territory where characters are completely comfortable with each other and have each other’s backs. Skye also delivered my favorite line of the episode in an attempt to comfort Coulson.
If you think this woman deserves a second chance, we should give it to her. Even though she tried to kill me and I kinda hate her guts.
Speaking of having each other’s backs, the other new element I was thrilled to see was the changing role of Agent May. I’ve been really afraid, she was going to spend the entire show delivering maybe twenty words (all of them zingers, I do admit though) an episode, taking out the bad guys in three moves or less, then disappearing into the cockpit any time there was a pause for character interaction and development. This week she really moved into being a member of the team, and I’m not sure Skye was that far off when she referred to May and Coulson’s throw down as “mom and dad fighting.” I think in the first few episodes, it felt like Ward was being tapped to play second in command, but that role is now clearly going to May. While she remains reserved, I felt we learned quite a bit more about her overall personality this episode. I really liked seeing her have to work at taking down Amador, but until Amador brought her “EPS” abilities into play it was clear May still had the upper hand. I really look forward to learning more about the Cavalry. I’m thinking she’s probably our Zoe this time around, but I also admit to getting a sinking feeling that she might also have a big red Whedonic X on her back.
Fitz and Simmons had some great moments as well, cementing for me that this show will only work if they resist the impulse to make it the Ward and Skye hour. But seriously, both of them need an hour where they’re in the spotlight the entire time. And in the realm of character development, I wouldn’t mind a few flashbacks here and there for all the characters. Except maybe Coulson. I think we actually have enough backstory on him. Other than the explanation for his still being alive of course, but I’m sure we’ll get to that. Last week, I was sure that May knew what really happened, but after the last exchange with Amador, I’m no longer certain. Not being a comics reader, my guess has been robot, but I think we probably just had that ruled out. At this point my real question isn’t what is Coulson, but whether or not he really doesn’t know the truth.
Maybe we’ll get a few more tidbits next week! I’m still trying to figure out a good format for these reviews since I really don’t want to give too much away. Let me know whether you’d like more recap, more commentary, or less of either or both!